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My Earliest Published Work

My spring cleaning project this year has been to pull the covers off all the boxes stored for years around my house and see what's inside. It's been a real journey of self-discovery, mostly revealing that I hold on to items WAY TOO LONG.


However, I've also discovered some real gems from my past that I cannot let go. Case in point, my earliest published work, pictured here. Please know that I understand this is not a great example of my writing ability, especially in poetry - but notice the date. March 1, 1974! I was 10 years old, in 4th grade.



My memory of this assignment was to write a poem (obviously) and to create it for presentation. I vividly recall my teacher that year, although I couldn't tell you her name. She was a tiny little powerhouse of a religious Sister of the Presentation of Mary, and in retrospect, an artist. Her room was decorated with beautiful pastel pencil sketches, and it was the first time I was in a class where art was used as part of our curriculum. My biggest takeaway from the art instruction was to use Aqua-Net hairspray to prevent smudges from any finished drawing. Clearly, I was not going to go down the road of being a visual artist.


With this assignment, we were encouraged to do whatever sort of artistic presentation we wanted for the display of our poems. For those of you readers who attended Catholic school, you must appreciate the earth-shattering part of this instruction: do whatever you want. My decision was based in the belief that I would be a writer, which translated to using a typewriter as my artistic instrument. While other 10-year old poets created collages, posters, paintings to showcase their poems, I went with the lined paper in a typewriter.


There are so many things I love about this poem. The fact that I trimmed a regular size piece of lined paper, probably to meet some size restriction in the assignment. The date written in the corner, in pen, which was the instrument of adults-only in 1974, so I know it's my mother's handwriting. The clever title, MARCH, in all caps, and if you look closely, you'll see I made a typing error right out of the gate, evidenced by the Z hiding behind the A. Line four shows my expertise at using the correction ribbon, a miracle in its day. The way I stacked THE END, a meagre attempt to fill the page a bit more. And how about that beautiful cursive signature (in pencil, of course)?


Here's the thing I love the most: "It is March, my favorite, month of the year." As an adult, I spend most of March complaining about what a horrible month it is. Too long, too many snowstorms at the beginning, too much mud at the end. It's no coincidence that I found this relic during March. It's a clear message from my childhood self to remember what I love. March was great when I was a kid - there were no school vacations (I loved the structure of going to school every day), it was too late to have fun in the snow but too early to play outside. So I stayed in, using my free time to read, and write sensational poems and stories (yes, I found notebooks of those, too).


There will be no more complaining about March from me. Thank you, 10-year-old Margaret Lafreniere, for reminding me of the simple joys that I should never take for granted.




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